Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is Feminism Dead? 13 Things From An Online Article.

1) The show spoke to a very realistic paradox: Mary still wanted to get married, even though she was happy being single and she knew marriage was not everything. She commented to Rhoda about the plight of the single woman in American society: “Sometimes I think I could discover the secret of immortality and people would still say, ‘look at that single girl discovering the secret of immortality.'” Though she still aspired to a traditional life, she was smart enough to realize how much she was influenced by society's views about women.

2 )Though the audience met Phyllis and her precocious daughter Bess, it did not get to see her husband Lars. It was clear from the first episode that Phyllis' marriage would serve comedic purposes. Phyllis told Mary: “I want to see you married. Because I'm married.” She literally bit her tongue and took Mary's hands in hers. Her voice almost quivering, she continued,
I know how beautiful it can be if you look at it realistically. Face the fact that it means a certain amount of sacrificing, of unselfishness. Denying your own ego. Sublimating. Accommodating. Surrendering.

3) Despite the incredibly hostile treatment she has gotten in the press – because she's four things TV women are not supposed to be, working-class, loudmouthed, overweight, and a feminist – Roseanne became a success because her mission was simple and welcome: to take the schmaltz and hypocrisy out of media images of motherhood. [She] spoke to
millions of women who love their children more than anything in the world but who also find motherhood wearing, boring, and, at times, infuriating.

4) The real “choice” that Roseanne embraced, the one that made her a feminist, was not to work, but rather, the choice to express herself – to her husband and to her children, to her friends and even to her bosses.

5) Roseanne's feminism was for women who have to work because bills must get paid, who assert their role as head of the house despite the degrading work they often do during the day to pay for their kids' food and clothes. Roseanne's feminism challenged what often becomes the pop-culture shorthand for feminism – that the most empowering decision a woman can make is to work (and have or not have a family). “Roseanne” reminded an expansive audience that working-class women are left out of “feminism” when it is framed this way.

6) Her role as a working woman did not make her a feminist. Her role in the home did, however.

7) While “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Roseanne” emerged at points when “feminism” as a highly prevalent issue, “Sexand the City” came at a time when pop culture was less obsessed with this specific term. Rather, the show's
novel portrayals of women seemed to inspire (rather than reflect) a rebirth of discussion about the meanings of feminism, or at least, how the concept had unfolded in modern life. While woman found more equality in the workplace, the questions that remained were the more traditional ones – those for which feminist theory never satisfactorily answered for everyday women – about when and if one should marry, when and if one should have children. In the 80s, the media used the conflict between traditional yearnings and the advances of the women's movement to set the stage for “post-feminism.” In the post- postfeminist 90s, “Sex and the City” (thankfully) did not shock its viewers with its successful, powerful and self-madewomen. What the show did was push the boundaries of propriety.

8) The first season of “Sex and the City” highlighted the newness of the genre – women speaking candidly about sex. While their lunchtime conversations were certainly unheard of for television, the aspirations (conscious and unconscious) of each of the women to marriage were very familiar. The show constructed four female characters, their obvious differences served as tools with which to examine the issues at hand: again, marriage and relationships, sex and career. Miranda was the cynic, Charlotte the romantic, Samantha the sex-aholic and Carrie, the best friend to them all, the likeable woman who encompassed all of her friends traits. They were all educated, well-employed, “single and fabulous.”

9) In the pilot episode, the protagonist (sex-columnist Carrie Bradshaw) pondered a question that she compared to the riddle of the sphinx (for her crowd): “Why are there so many great unmarried women and no great unmarried men?” Carrie described these women: “We all know them, and we all agree they're great. They travel, they pay taxes. They'll pay $400 on a pair of Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals. And they're alone.” Apparently, these are the qualities of a great woman. “Sex and the City” added a new component to feminism – the ability to out-consume men.

10) In another episode, the four women know a couple that announced their engagement a week after meeting. They are all thoroughly disturbed by this happening, aside from Charlotte who finds the news reassuring. Carrie explored the notion of “love at first sight” for her column, and offered man-on-the-street type snippets as part of her research. One man offered a harsh analysis of why women cannot succumb to instantaneous love: “Love at first sight is too flaky for New York . Here women want to see a blood test and an ATM receipt before they'll talk to you.” This feeling described the new “Sex and the City” bred woman, and the audience sympathized with this man's condemnation of superficial women. The women on “Sex and the City” talked about eligible bachelors as being rich and good-looking, bought $400 shoes because they could, and were highly concerned with getting seated at the best restaurants, rather than discussing political or social issues, lusting after men because they were smart and kind, or even sharing with their friends what they did all day at work.

11) It's very tempting and somewhat accurate to call Carrie and her friends “feminists.” They were in control of their own sexual gratification, and they were also successful career women. Samantha owned her own public relations firm; Miranda was a corporate lawyer; Charlotte an art dealer; and Carrie a writer with a column in a New York newspaper. The
audience believed that these women respected themselves. So much so that when Carrie called Samantha “insecure” in a voice-over, it was not only surprising, but it was unsettling. After all, if it were true about this character, the argument of “Sex and the City” would seem to topple. While insecurity in the boldly sexual Samantha seemed misplaced, it advanced the complexity of Carrie as a feminist character. If Mary Richards' choice was to put marriage aside and go out “on her own,” and Roseanne's choice was to speak her mind, it seemed Carrie's choice was, often, uncertainty.

12) In terms of Carrie and “Sex and the City,” Time once again asked the question “Is feminism dead?” in a 1998
cover story that directly implicated the selfishness of the supposed new ideals of feminism. In a satirical play-on-words, the magazine mocked narcissistic feminism with a headline which re-worked the ubiquitous feminist handbook, Our Bodies, Our Selves . It asked: “Want to know what today's chic young feminist thinkers care about? Their bodies! Themselves!” 36 It noted that while: “the feminism of the ‘60s and ‘70s was steeped in research and obsessed with social change, feminism today is wed to the culture of celebrity and self-obsession.” The materialistic portrayals of “Sex in the City” almost manipulate the feminist roots of self-fulfillment. At the same time, however, they represented a group of women who made good money and had every right to spend it as they pleased. They were women who dominated in formerly male-driven professions
(Miranda became a partner in her corporate law firm) and celebrated their success without apologizing for it.
From: Mary, Roseanne, and Carrie: Television and Fictional Feminism

13) On tv a major question for women is either does Paris Hilton have underwear on or how long is going to serve for DUI? Meredith on Grey's Anatomy is almost useless, despite passing her med school exams. I want to shout at the tv, one word Meredith=feminism! And by the way HBO? I watch Deadwood:)


Dewey said...

I love Grey's Anatomy, but that's IN SPITE OF Meredith. She's so boring, and the actor who plays her is so bad. Now Cristina! There's a feminist! I love her.

Amy Ruttan said...

Oooh I love Sex and the City. They each have a trait I adore, and women shouldn't feel embarressed by sex or eroticism. I mean look at me and what I write.

Most of my non writing friends are embarressed by that. I still remember talking to one friend about what it was like to give birth. I said the word uterus and half my friends said "Ewww gross" and I was 26 when I had my first. I mean come on!

Happy TT Candy!

Candy Minx said...

Dewey, well yes, Christina is something. Feminist but is she able to process her feelings? I love Bailey on the show...and the two trampy men!!! Yikes.

Amy, I love SEx and The City fave. Slowly collecting them on dvd. Yes, some peopel are kookoo when it comes to bodies huh? Especially babies and what about breastfeeding?! I saw some actress on tv talking about expressing her milk so she wouldn't have to breastfeed on aplane. Ai yi. And yet, in a film she'd probably show off her boobs. What a world.

Sue said...

Interesting list! I've never found popular media to be a good representation of feminism though.


Anonymous said...

What a great TT! To me, feminism means simply that women are individuals just as much as men are and that no woman's life or choices should be proscribed or limited or defined by her chromosomes or physiology -- we are all people first, i.e. "feminism is the radical notion that women are people" kind of thing.

These days, most folks do seem to recognize that women are people but there still exists a great deal of expectation based upon a woman's physiology than on her individual proclivities and character. As a 39 year old woman who is married but who has never wanted children, I've experienced this over and over again. Women who don't want to be mothers still run up against more narrow-mindedness and foolishness than do men who don't want to be fathers.

Well, wait a minute.. I am a mom, I'm a cat mom. Hee hee! :)

As always, Candy Minx, a superduper, thought-provoking and fascinating TT! And thanks for visiting my blog. :)

Judy Callarman said...

A very interesting list--I can see you spent a lot of time on it. Roseanne drives me crazy yelling at people in public arguments that I think are dopey.

Wylie Kinson said...

Fabulous. FAB-U-LOUS
This would be a rockin' essay for women's studies in college.
*cutting and pasting key points to send to my university-aged niece*

So, so thought-provoking and I love the way you paralleled Rosanne with Mary! Brilliant.

Emma Wayne Porter said...

I agree, very thought-provoking. As probably the only person in the continental United States who has never seen a single episode of SITC (Yeah, I know. I just don't watch much television) it's been interesting to observe people's reactions to the entire phenomenon.

And living largely under a rock with my head in a writing book as I do, what I usually end up thinking is that what's happened is someone's finally wised up and begun exploring The Heroine's Journey rather than the Hero's.

Interesting times we live in. I wonder if we realize that sometimes.

LOL I'll be quiet now. Great topic, obviously.

Tink said...

This kind of post is exactly why I gave you a Thinking Blogger Award! Interesting stuff!
Thanks for visiting my Google TT.

Wandering Coyote said...

I found Sex in the City really annoying, but I know people who absolutely love it. I guess I didn't identify with it at all - those women seemed to be so unreal. As for Greys', I never liked Meredith, either. Izzy and Bailey are my faves.

Starla said...

Great TT!

While I find it hard to find good examples of feminism in mainstream television, you did a wonderful job.

Sex in the City (which I love) is a very good example, but I was particularly interested in Roseanne. I watched the show as a child and pre-teen, which undoubtedly means I missed out on some of the nuances of the show. I really should go back and watch that show again.

Joy Renee said...

I would want to know how many men were involved in the conception, writing and producing of all of these shows before I could know how much weight to give their depictions of feminism. Rosanne was the only one I know for sure was at least based on the comedy routine she wrote herself.

I always suspected that the concepts of teh women in Sex and the City were being filtered through men's perceptions. I could be wrong. Maybe its just that women like them were so far out of my personal experience they seemed alien to me.

But then so was Rosanne. There was never ever any raised voices in my childhood home. If I had been introduced to Rosanne before I had met the women in my husband's family, I would have thought her bizzare. I see her in my MIL who can't stand her. Go figure.

Great post.

My TT is 13 memories of my Dad and me in honor of his Bday on Tuesday and Memorial Day.

Darla said...

How odd. Blogger ate my comment. I know I had something profound to say... I just wish I could remember what it was. Sheesh. Sorry about that.

Kenneth said...

did anyone think about the fact that this feminism is only prescribed to women who are white and heterosexual? Did anyone think about the fact that feminism is not merely the ability to make a choice? Think about black feminists, whose ideas of feminism have less to do with spending their well-deserved money and trying to "equal" men and more to do with dismantling racism and patriarchal systems of oppression. The feminism presented on television is exclusionary, and thus institutionally racist. Do any of you really think that women of lower classes, lesbians, women of color, transsexual women, or disabled women have the same choices as white women? This feminism you speak of is something that utilizes oppression to end oppression. To some, feminism may be a lifestyle, while to others, it may be a radical political movement to end sexist oppression. I'm not discrediting feminist lifesyles; however, these shows' understanding of feminism is extremely limited and cheapens the meaning of feminism. Feminism is not a white upper-class woman's right to buy new expensive shoes because she makes as much as a man. That's capitalism and reinforcement of patriarchy.